New arts facilitator holds philosophy doctorate

TALENTED DUO: Arts and cultural facilitator Sheila Duncan, left, chats with events co-ordinator Genevieve Pontikinas outside their offices in the Regional Tourism and Arts Centre, in Mary Elie Street.

TALENTED DUO: Arts and cultural facilitator Sheila Duncan, left, chats with events co-ordinator Genevieve Pontikinas outside their offices in the Regional Tourism and Arts Centre, in Mary Elie Street.

Thanks to a university education and long history as an actor, Sheila Duncan was quick to see the coincidence in a name.

Our new arts and cultural facilitator shares the same surname as another performer, Isadora Duncan who is described as the Mother of Modern Dance.

Isadora, an American who lived in Russia and France, died when her silk scarf got caught in the rear wheels of a convertible car, strangling her, in 1927.

“She was a flamboyant character, but I was born in Scotland and there is no connection between her and I,” Sheila said, despite their shared interest in performing.

Sheila comes to her new role with a background as an actor, playwright and university lecturer.

She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Drama so has the right to be referred to as Dr Duncan.

Her new role involves shared duties with the Port Pirie Regional Council and Country Arts SA in the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula.

“There are many arts messages that I would like to bring to Port Pirie,” she said.

“My job is to facilitate arts projects. If people have projects they want to do here, I can help them through council or Country Arts or both.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm, but there is not a lot of opportunity for young people outside performing arts.

“I am interested in the arts activities such as Hip-Hop Bounce and programs at John Pirie Secondary School where teachers are involved in arts and fostering young people.

“I know in this political and economic environment, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to work in the arts, but it is such bloody fun … good for your soul.”

Meanwhile, the practical applications of her profession are foremost in her mind.

“I would like to see music festivals and a sculpture trail is possible through the Heysen Trail or at Wirrabara. Walking trails can include art,” she said.

“Art can be anything. It doesn’t need to be a painting. If you are going to put up a toilet, make it pretty … you feel that someone cares about you.”

Art can be anything. It doesn’t need to be a painting. If you are going to put up a toilet, make it pretty … you feel that someone cares about you. - Sheila Duncan, arts and cultural facilitator, Port Pirie Regional Council

Sheila has been an actor for 30 years, having been an original cast member in Melbourne for Les Miserables.

Her qualifications include a Masters in Creative Writing from Edinburgh University.

She was raised in Whyalla where her father Jim Duncan, who kept his Scottish brogue, was regional chief of the gas company.

Sheila hopes to “value-add” to art events by introducing classes for aspiring practitioners.

Mural-makers or sculptors could conduct such sessions and a possible appearance by a puppeteer could include classes on how to make puppets.

Demonstrations of art could become a feature of any new project – such as railway bollards being installed around Memorial Oval where the multi-million-dollar sport hub is being developed.

New events co-ordinator with council Genevieve Pontikinas said “arts” and “events” blended well.

Her first role is to help organise a celebration marking the opening of the multi-million-dollar city-centre redevelopment.

She plans to consult with traders to see what would be best, possibly a street party.

“I will work with community groups to help co-ordinate their needs,” she said.

So far she has been involved in the Anzac Day projections onto the Northern Festival Centre and is working with the organisers of the Smelter’s Picnic for a smoothly-run event.

“I want to create some new exciting events as well that appeal to all kinds of people. This could include outdoor cinema screenings,” she said.

“Before I started, we bought some outdoor cinema equipment which can be hired to community groups with which  to run their own events and we will help them with that,”

Genevieve studied tourism and event management at the University of South Australia before working for Events Cinemas, a big theatre group. Now Genevieve and Sheila will take to the “stage” in Port Pirie to wow us with their skills, artistry and resourcefulness as the city enters a new age of entertainment.

They were recently involved in promoting a performance by Hip-Hop Bounce at the Remembrance Day ceremony conducted by the Port Pirie Domestic Violence Action Group at the tourism and arts centre.

The young dancers presented their self-made routine titled The Strong Will Survive.

The dancers were in the Women’s Keepsake Garden and adopted the theme “stomp out violence”.

This is an example of the frontier of arts, cultural and events activities that awaits Port Pirie.

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